I never imagined being besties with a nun.
In fact, this particular nun used to be rather intimidating to us as children. We’d don the white altar server robes and knot the gold belt before mass, and someone would peek out the door and spot her in the first few church pews, her sharp eyes scanning each of us to make sure we were properly presented.
“Sr Martina’s here! She’ll be watching for mistakes!” one of the kids would hiss.
Though small in stature, she always gave the impression of being very much in charge, as she instructed the choir and bashed out the notes of the hymns on the keyboard. She had been a French teacher in her youth (she even taught my nana) and I suppose that authoritative air never leaves you.
We didn’t know each other very well until I started researching my family tree as a teenager. Sr Martina has lived in the local village for most of her adult life and she knew my great-grandparents well. I decided to ask her what she could remember.
I was spellbound with her stories. I kept going back to hear more. She has a way of telling them that, to me, has faded in the modern day and age… the sheer detail with which she recalls her life in the 1920s and 1930s astounds me. Her life as a young woman growing up in Ireland fascinates me because it is completely different to my experience. The joy she takes in looking back at a time when everything was simpler is wonderful.
I was intrigued as to what had made her want to join the convent and spend the rest of her life as a nun. What could compel you to make that sort of life-changing decision at 18? Sheer devotion? Family tradition? Hope of inner peace?
“My friends were joining. And my brother bet me I couldn’t last a week.”
Well, 80 years later, I think she’s proved him wrong… 🙂
Now 98, she sits in her armchair clad in her navy veil. She looks at me with her bright blue eyes and wide grin.
She smiles mischievously as she remembers driving the Mother Superior mad with their antics. I can see her mind alive with the memories as they flash before her like a film reel. She scoffs when I congratulate her on her recent birthday and ask her to proffer wisdom. Though she’s spent her life in service to God, she happily gives remarkably sound advice on relationships!
I find her inspiring because, as Shakespeare said, “though she be but little, she is fierce”. She may have chosen a life of prayer but she has by no means retired her opinion, her memories, or her kindness to others.
No longer fearsome, to me she is fearless. She is the kind of woman I hope to be when I am her age – one who brings a smile to those around her.
What women inspire you? Let me know in the comments!
This post is the first of a 12-part series looking at women who inspire me. Keep an eye out at the end of February for #2 in the series.